Communist Party of Australia

We acknowledge the Sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples.

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Issue #1604      July 31, 2013


Justin Feehan

Comrade Justin Feehan passed away in Adelaide on July 6 aged 44 years following a brave battle with a rare form of melanoma. He was a long-time member of the Communist Party of Australia and the Semaphore Workers’ Club. He was an organiser of great note for the CFMEU and was made a life member of his union. Later in life he was a seafarer but no matter where he worked or travelled, he was an internationalist and a courageous advocate and fighter for the cause of the working class.

(Photo: CFMEU Hard Hat Express)

Justin started work in the late 1980s as a formwork labourer. During his time on the notorious REMM Meyer site, he was a prominent young BLF delegate. He dodged an application for allegedly violating section 45(d) of the Trade Practices Act and stood up to reactionary workers who attacked a protest against the first Iraq War.

Justin was instrumental in breaking down the divisions between trades and non-trades workers on the REMM site. This built trust between the two main building unions on the site and was the start of the unification process. This was achieved at the rank and file level by pioneers like Justin Feehan.

Justin did a two-year organising stint with the CFMEU in Sydney and was central to a recruiting drive among scaffolders. A campaign for improved pay and conditions among the newly organised workers led to a three week strike that was crowned by a 30 percent pay increase.

Justin formed many close friendships with BLF stalwarts like Green Bans legend Jack Mundey, current CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker, former CFMEU official and current MUA WA official Doug Heath, and former CFMEU officials Dave Hellyer and the late John Lennox. He threw himself into the work in solidarity with the waterside workers locked out during the 1998 Patrick dispute.

Justin returned to Adelaide and found work on building sites. He was as active as ever as an organiser. He rose to the position of Vice President of the CFMEU in SA and served on the union’s national executive.

He was targeted by the Cole Royal Commission and hounded to the end by the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Court hearings and hefty fines followed. Finally, he was banned from entering building sites across the country.

“Justin’s contribution to the union was terrific,” CFMEU National Secretary Dave Noonan said. “He was respected by members and decent employers. He was the organiser grubby bosses loved to hate. It’s sometimes forgotten that Ark Tribe got charged because the ABCC was seeking evidence to get Justin.”

Forced out of the building industry, Justin then went to sea. He earned the respect of all he sailed with during his short time as a seafarer. During this time, he wrote a poem about his experiences. With the permission of his family, this is going to be set to music and recorded by the band The Travelling Agitators.

Around 400 mourners attended Justin’s funeral in the Adelaide Hills recently. He is survived by 15-year-old daughter Caitlan Che Feehan, parents Jeff and Kay and sisters Sarah and Angela and their families.

The Dutchman’s Gold

From Gladstone town the course is set
With payload dirt, the “Heron’s” kept
Alongside the dredge we throw the ropes,
The next pay packet our only hopes!
We happy crew, we band of men
We sailed her for the Netherlands

Of wild dark seas we do not fear
As we miss our kin and yearn for beer
Heading for the dumping ground
Beam side on we pitch around
As vessel and crew lurch and roll
Moving more mud and the Dutchman’s goal
We happy crew, we happy men
We sail her for the Netherlands

Australian mud is “Dutchies” gold
To deepen ports for projects bold;
So foreign companies can take the wealth
What’s for our kids, the environment’s health?
While overseas shareholders grow ever fat
Once it’s gone you can’t get it back!
So we do our job and take their coin
As we sail out past the River Boyne;
We’re union crew, proud Australian men
And we’ll take the “Heron” out yet again!

Justin Feehan

Next article – PNG policy is not a humanitarian one

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